Make occupational health part of mainstream care, says report

Occupational health should be integrated into mainstream healthcare so people with work-related illnesses get better help, says a report for the Council for Work and Health.


Millions of people have illnesses believed to be caused or made worse by working conditions

It calls for partnerships between employers and healthcare providers, with employers helping to shape occupational health through ‘mixed-market commissioning and procurement’.

An estimated two million people working in 2014-15 in the UK had illnesses they believed was caused or made worse by work, the document says.

Natalie Beswetherick, CSP director of practice and development, welcomed the report, including its recommendation that government should create tax incentives to encourage investment in occupational health.

The Council for Work and Health’s members include the CSP and the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics professional network (ACPOHE).

It wants managers and human resources staff to be trained to improve workplace health and wellbeing.

More physiotherapists will probably be needed to deliver Fit for Work, the government-funded programme to support occupational health assessments and health advice for employees in England and Wales, the report says.

However, it says that most advice provided through the programme will be given over the phone or through an online library of information about health conditions and access to frequently-asked questions.

The other recommendations for developing occupational health services over the next 20 years include

  • employers should understand the return-on-investment in occupational health
  • quality-assured training should be provided to multi-professional occupational health teams, including physiotherapists
  • better planning is needed in creating occupational health schemes and the workforce needed to deliver them
  • high-calibre health practitioners are vital if predicted occupational health needs are to be met, and the current shortage of health professionals must be tackled urgently

Ms Beswetherick emphasised the important role physiotherapists play in healthy workplaces: ‘Physiotherapists are critical to supporting more people to remain at work or to enable an early return to work,’ she said.

‘All physiotherapists who assess and treat musculoskeletal disorders give advice to people to prevent problems relating to work. And they can advise if adjustments may need to be made at work.’

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